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'I used to have so many nasty voices living in my head' Actress and Loose Womenpresenter Nadia Sawalha, 54, talks about breaking female taboos, her unconventional family life, and no longer listening to her demons.

Byline: Nadia Sawalha

We're meeting Nadia Sawalha at ITV Studios, where she and the other Loose Women have been putting the world to rights for the past hour. We're wondering if she might be a bit drained and done with talking, but as soon as we're settled in her dressing room it's clear she's only getting started.

'I'm a professional over-sharer, this is what I do,' says Nadia, 54, throwing her head back with a glorious laugh.

Nadia is exactly as she is on telly, just with a dash of post-watershed language. Topics that would make most celebrities squirm are greeted with gusto, from family life with husband Mark and their kids Maddy, 16, and Kiki, 12, to Nadia's long list of embarrassing female ailments.

'What am I like?

I'm broken down!' she cackles. 'Thing is, I had a really great time neglecting my body for most of my adult life. I did everything to get all the problems I have now!' For all her self-deprecation, she looks fab in the flesh, flashing tanned legs in an electric blue dress. She's chatty, hilariously frank ('quite unedited', as she puts it) and thrilled the world is finally catching up with the tell-it-like-it-is Loose Women style.

'We're sharing our real lives, and in this age of social media, it's that relatability people want,' she says. 'I'm quite divisive and I think that's good. I don't want to be the Loose Woman who everybody loves.' You've been on Loose Women since the start, what keeps it fun?

It's crazy to think it's our 20th anniversary this year. I just love it, because every day I get to hang out with my mates and argue in a safe place. I laugh, I cry This job gives me absolutely everything.

Who would you love to join the panel?

All of us would love Victoria Beckham as a guest panellist. She's very funny, very smart and she's a hard-working mum with lots of kids. I think she'd be the perfect Loose Woman.

Which guest have you terrified the most?

Nearly everybody. The show's drivers tell us the guests are always terrified. The men are the worst, you can literally see their knees shaking underneath the desk. I think Nigel Farage was very nervous both times he came on. But we're honestly never trying to trip people up.

Coleen said you're the wildest Loose Woman - is that true?

I definitely was in the early days. I was the one who was out getting drunk, but that's changed since I've had kids. I do still have a wild side, but I've had to grow up. And it's so annoying.

Do the Loose Women have any secrets they've not shared on screen?

Oh yes! If we're doing quite a personal story, we'll tell the full story in the pre-show meeting and discuss what we're OK with saying on air. The trust we have between us is something I hold in the highest regard. Occasionally all of us will have slipped and accidentally said something we know is offlimits, but that's rare.

Would you let them scroll through your phone photos live on air?

I wouldn't be worried about a scroll. I might be if they went through my messages. When my husband and I argue, we do it in the most fantastic way. I said we should do a book of all our text arguments, because they are unbelievable. We're Scorpios, we're dramatic. He's writing a play at the moment and it's based on our relationship. He sent a scene to a friend, who didn't know it was autobiographical, and she said, 'It's dysfunctional and insane, I almost feel sick.' I was like, 'Oh my God.' I think we forget most people aren't like us!

What do your kids think about you doing Loose Women?

They hate me being on it. I asked my girls if there was one thing they could change about my life and they said instantly, 'You wouldn't be a TV presenter.' They just want me to shut up. They'd prefer it if I could stand in a corner and hardly breathe. If you're a kid, Loose Women is the most embarrassing job your mum could have on TV, because you are talking about your life and them.

You home educate your girls, was it tough doing GCSEs with your 16 year old?

She's not done GCSEs. We do child-led learning. We go with what they're most passionate about. There's no curriculum or timetable, it's 24-7 learning. We'll set up a conversation to have at dinner, and that could be a lesson in history or politics. They watch the news with us and we talk about it. We pick out plays and art. It's a very bohemian way of learning.

You and your sister Julia are both in showbiz, are you close?

We're not showbizzy sisters at all. We have periods when we're close and periods when we're not. I always say we're all sh*t or all sugar. Julia lives in Bath now, and when you don't live near to somebody it is harder.

Do you enjoy breaking taboos at work?

When we got our new boss, we said, 'Please be brave enough to put the menopause on telly'. We'd been told we couldn't talk about it because it's a telly turn-off, but we knew there were a lot of people suffering terribly with it. I'd been hit by mine like a train. I'd gone into a depression, I was flooding with blood, I thought I was dying, and had no idea it was the menopause. So I'm proud of Loose Women for being the first to address menopause, because now everybody talks about it.

Is it a relief being out the other side now?

Well, I'm out of the menopause, but I'm IN the other side. You don't go back to where you were before. I was going under with it and I'd put on weight, so I looked at my diet, exercise, everything, and I just pushed and pushed until I started to feel better. I didn't want to sink into it and just wear trackies and say, 'This is me now, I'm a dried-up old woman, my ovaries are raisins and there's no purpose for me.' What do you like about this time in your life?

I care less about what people think. That is the best thing about getting older. I wasted so much energy on that when I was younger and so much time listening to nasty voices in my head. If I went through my younger life with 20 nasty f***ers in my head telling me horrible stuff, I'm probably down to two now. Two I can deal with.

You recently hit back at a nasty story about your beach body by posting a video of your cellulite I wanted to get over that feeling of not wanting to go in the pool because of my body. I felt liberated when I posted it. Well, not initially. All day I was cringing, but now I'm glad I did it. I'm going to Marbella with Kay Adams and we never go to the beach, because I have a thing about being photographed. But this time I'm going to the beach in a bikini and f*** it!

Nadia's 'celebration' Are there things you won't share?

My husband and I do a podcast called How To Stay Married (So Far), and we can't talk about sex because the girls would literally kill us.

Which is quite difficult because we are talking about how to stay married, but I get it. Nobody wants to hear their parents talking about having sex. My children like to think it only happened twice. And it did [laughs]!

Why do such a personal podcast?

I don't know! We don't make any money out of it, but we learn a lot about each other. We nearly always have an argument before and after each one, but it's interesting to have that in-depth conversation about your marriage every week. We've had couple's counselling in the past and it's saved our marriage at points, but it feels like we're doing it ourselves now.

So the podcast has made your marriage stronger?

Sometimes it cracks it and sometimes it makes it stronger, because we're real with each other and that's hard. And we're doing it in front of an audience. Most people have their stuffbehind closed doors.

Is there any mystique left?

No, none! We don't even have a lock on the bathroom doors. But that's more down to us being sh*t at DIY than us wanting to do things together.

As an open person, you must get some saucy fan mail I don't, and now you've said that I'm thinking, 'Why don't I?' But no, I don't want those pictures.

Why does any man think anyone would want to see it?

cellulite video Breaking the last taboo There aren't many personal matters Nadia shies away from, but she admits it's taken a long time to talk about having incontinence.

'There's a stigma and there shouldn't be, because our bodies are amazing,' says Nadia, who's fronting the Let's Pee Honest campaign. 'We have babies, and my bladder weakness was down to that. The menopause made it far worse. I'd leak if I sneezed or laughed, and a couple of times I just gushed.' After years of wearing pads, Nadia is leak-free again thanks to Innovo, a special pair of shorts with built-in electrical stimulation to strengthen the pelvic floor. 'I wasn't expecting it to work, but it does,' she says. 'I've not just regained my bladder control, I've regained the confidence to wear lighter trousers, go running and leave the house without the fear of a leak.' With 1 in 3 women experiencing incontinence, Nadia is urging people to stop suffering in silence. 'We shouldn't be ashamed to get help. It's not something you just have to accept.' INNOVO (RRP PS249) visit

'There's no mystique in our marriage, we don't even have a lock on the bathroom'

CAPTION(S):

Nadia's 'cellulite celebration' video

With sister, actress Julia

The team back in 1999: Kaye Adams, Nadia, Jane Moore and Philippa Kennedy

With hubby Mark and daughters
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 28, 2019
Words:1707
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